Sunday, April 30, 2006

High Oil Prices!

I encourage everyone to read Peak Oil analyst Michael Ruppert's recent essay. If you have kids, or work with kids, you owe it to them to understand the issues surrounding the future you are leaving them; peak oil being one factor. The essay is also a good way to understand the high gas prices we are presently seeing. (Cheap oil was for many decades a decisive factor is an enormous economic machine that could be taxed.) Michael Ruppert use to be a detective in Los Angeles but is now dedicated to writing about Peak Oil. Their are many Peak Oil advocates, but Michael Ruppert is easily the smartest in my opinion and I have been following his work for years now. He puts forward evidence in such a way that by the end one's old views are deeply questioned. (His book, Crossing the Rubicon, also made it onto's Top Ten without any press.) This speech is from last month and thus contains much timely information. Some of his points are radical even for me but I find the information invaluable. (Note: He does not address the anabolic oil debate, but I think strongly it is a moot point anyway because even if oil was produced that way, deep with in the Earth, it would still take millions of years to create, thus keeping oil essentially a non-renewable resource in the way we see now.)

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Supper in Obihiro

Here are some pictures of dinner in Obihiro last night with Kevin, Yuki and Natsue. Cardinal turned out to nothing like I was expecting. The space it self is hard to describe. "Small" is one word to use I suppose. When I think of "trendy", I think of a restaurant like Earls or something, but Cardinal was very different. It specializes in what it describes as "World foods". While the food is served Japanese style, meaning it's put in the middle of the table for everyone to pick at, the choices were very exotic. Take a look at some sample images below. Smoked ham from Spain. A BLT wrap (top right of the image). Just look at all that bacon! My chest feels tight today. Natsue's honey toast took forever to come out. We joked that they were baking the bread and harvesting the honey by hand. I'll admit the wait was worth it, the toast had a consistency nearer to cake and was delicious. The whole meal was excellent.

We had needed to make reservations weeks ago because the restaurant had become so popular. We were sitting near the door - every seat is near the door because the space is so small - and saw no less than six couples turned away. The place itself would be nearly impossible to find unless one had specific knowledge of it's existence. In the nature of all good Japanese restaurants the location is deeply hidden away among back streets, narrow alleys, dark doorways, and long staircases. The whole restaurant is nightly staff by only two people; doing duties as both servers and cooks. A situation that I am pretty sure is illegal in Canada but goes unnoticed here. I took the image below in a lull between two groups of fourteen; one can make out the entire kitchen in the picture. Next we stopped at one of the coolest kareoke bars I have seen; Ninja Kareoke. The whole interior is designed like a traditional, but touristy, Japanese street. But when one steps into the little private kareoke booths, one is again transported back to ultra-modern Japan complete with video projector systems, hifi-sound, wireless mics, and leather benches. What fun!

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Friday, April 28, 2006


It is a beautiful day here in Shikaoi; a good day to take a long walk or sit outside. There is no hint of the hot humid days of summer yet and a light refreshing breeze that feels good on the face. I was up early this morning to say happy birthday to my Mom, her 29th. I insist in phoning on the actual day because I want to feel involved living very far away. Thank goodess for modern technology; I am definately not a Luddite. Next a haircut; I walked of course. And later a run, probably outside on the path by the river. Between these two commitments, house and yard work.

I probably haven't mentioned this yet but next week I will be going down South to Honshu to visit my old host families in Koriyama where I was a Rotary Exchange Student in 1999-2000. I will be away from May 3rd to 6th; but not really away because I will probably be bringing my lap top and I doubt my updating schedule will be interrupted by much. Needless to say I am very exicted. The itinerary is still being set but I will certianlly be posting a large update with photos after I get back.

Before I depart there is still a lot to do, including heading back out tonight to Obihiro where Kevin, Yuki, Natsue and I have reservations at Cardinal, a very tready resturant in Obihiro. I can't wait. Should be very good eats.

Not much time today.

There's so much I want to get done today that all I have time to offer at the moment is some images. The two above were shot today at Urimaku Elementary School. Just one of the funniest, kindest and goofiest grade four students goofing around. Below is an image I took sometime this week. It is of the Tokachi river near my house. I was trying to capture the spirit of the Spring season. Now I'm off to study Japanese.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


I feel tonight, with having just reached 206 posts, quite a sense of accomplishment. If one was to type "the perfect architecture company" into either or this very blog is number one in both instances. A big thank you to all my readers around the world!

Foggy Ideas

The above image is how it looked around Shikaoi yesterday morning when I was driving out to Tsumei Sho Gakko. It had snowed during the night but had stayed very warm. When the morning Sun came out the snow melted very fast but I guess the air was still enough for the moisture to stick around - which is surprising because normally it's so windy here. Soon enough the fog burned off and it was a beautiful day.

Last night we had a large welcoming party at Tori Sei for the new Board of Education employees. There's parties for everything here. I had a good time visiting with many of the Board of Education employees I don't see very often and Tori Sei was good as always.

Today was a short schedule at Shikaoi Sho Gakko. Each class was cut to only forty minutes for some reason. I taught grades three, four, five, and six for a total of 146 students. I'm going for a run after work and eating some left over pasta I made on Sunday for dinner.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Black hole of spare time

This blog can not be held responsible for time wasted on pointless links.

With the accelerated growth of the internet has come the understanding that the internet is a giant black hole of spare time; it's origins as a time-saving device have always been in question. In this post, I will add to that by 12 minutes 54 seconds.

I stumbled across an interesting google video with a Japanese connection. I guiltily admit I watched the whole clip. It really is quite a mesmerizing.

At the end of each section you will see and here "Pitagora-Suicchi!" These small spots are actually part of NHK's children's show "Pythagoras Switch", or in Japanese "Pitagora-Suicchi." An image can be seen above. It aims to try to make science fun for kids. Below is the translated quote from their official website:

Within our daily lives, which we go about without thinking much about the many mysteries, archetypes, themes and more varied ways of thought. For example, have you ever thought why waffles are always the same shape? Behind it all is the concept of "having a shape". There all sorts of these archetypes/shapes: in print, in mass-produced goods and whatnot. Understanding these these ahapes lets you grasp how these things work. "Pythagoras Switch" wants to help kids have that moment of A-HA! We want to raise thinking about thinking, to flip that epiphany switch in every child.

Monday, April 24, 2006


Here are the pictures from this morning. There probably won't be many other images this week because I am working on a project for Koriyama. If something amazing does happen, I will be sure to get a shot of it; today's weather may count. Above are pictures of me in action. And below is a shot of when I left. It has become a continuing ritual that my departure sparks a small riot. It's really more funny than heart breaking. Kids can be very silly.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Live kindergarten blogging.

Next week I am off to Koriyama, but first I must make it through this week. I think it will go fast. In a little while I am off to Shikaoi kindergarten. It's lightly raining at the moment, very grey, maybe lightening up to the west. I hesitate to use the word studying - but we are going to study "numbers" - but really it involves much play. I will be having a class with the four year olds and then the five year olds. My friend Yohei Sakaguchi teachers the four year olds class. He helped me refine the games. Anyways, my goal for the five year olds is at least get them to count to 12 - and have fun, of course. I have also been invited to stay for lunch. It is very nice to come to the kindergartens. Sometimes at the schools I am a dead weight, and the teachers don't know what to do with me. But at the kindergartens, the teachers are always happy to have a spare set of hands. I will update again later.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Pictures from yesterday

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Sorry. On Friday blogspot had a server go down and it just happened to be the one that my blog was on. I didn't lose anything (it's all completely backed up) but it did mean that I couldn't update. I also had a bit of a ferver on Thursday night which didn't help. Here are some pictures from yesterday. I was out at Kamihoronai Sho Gakko. It was a bit of an unusual schedule. I also went to their nearby kindergarten beforehand and we learned numbers. That was a bit rocky - not that the kids cared - but I will be changing somethings for Monday when I go Shikaoi kindergarten and do the same lesson plan; if one can really call playing games a plan. In any case, as you can see the picture below, the weather was great yesterday. This morning it is sunny too, but windy. I'm going to do the dish, vacuum, and then go for a run, go into Obihiro (I need a rake), all before I go out for dinner tonite. I hope everyone has a good weekend, mine has already started!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

School lunches in Japan - きゅうしょく

Something that deeply affects my day-to-day life here that many readers may not know is what I have for lunch everyday. School children and teachers from kindergarten to Jr. High School have lunch provided for them everyday. Here it is called Kyushoku (きゅうしょく). The diet is extremely varied and very healthy. (It is worth noting that in Japan a varied diet is considered an important component of a healthy diet). The portions are small, meaning that sometimes I am left hungry, but this is also an intriguer part of a healthy lifestyle. The history of the program is interesting, after WWII, the government established it to make sure that the nation's children received a generous potion of the country's limited food resources at the time. I don't have a feeling for how the school lunch program is seen today, but considering it is still running I assume it must have some merit. Many area's - Tokachi among them - have school lunch programs if they can afford it, but it is not nationally legislated.

I'll be blunt and admit that kyushoku may not look particularly appetizing. It does take some getting use to. All students diligently finishes every scrap of food; not finishing and the whining that would accompany it, is simply not an option. Many students, like kids everywhere, sometimes don't like certain foods; still they eat the school lunches here without complaining. I was amazed.

The program is currently run locally through our Board of Education. Teachers have to pay and it costs me about $2 a day (meaning an entire month works out to about $40). I have come to really like kyushoku because it is such a good deal, it's healthy, plus I never have to think about what I need to do for lunch in the morning. My least favorite days are noodle days with ramen or udon (which just happens to be pictured). I'm sorry; but you just can't make large batches of cheap ramen and have it taste good. The best meals are Shikaoi's Curry and Rice Kyushoku and I always hope I get a big portion. Some of my schools are so small everyone eats together which can be a lot of fun. I get made fun of mercilessly because I don't ever drink the Japanese milk. (To start with it has 3.9% fat, so it's like cream. Secondly it just taste so different from Alberta milk I grew up with. Lastly, I don't think it's healthy for adults to drink large amounts of milk. Generally, however, Tokachi milk is considered top-notch.) Below is the grade four class getting ready to eat. They are saying "Itadakimasu!" which is an ancient word roughly meaning "Let's Eat!"

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I just happen to bring my camera to school today and it turns out it was bike safety day so there were about 200 bikes in the parking lot. (Ironic point: no one wore a helmet.) Anyways, it was crummy weather, very cold and winter-like, not snowing or windy, but really cold. If you didn't have gloves I'm sure it would be quite miserable. I decided to take out my camera before hand, while all the students were getting a bike safety lecture, because I didn't want to have my camera out when the kids were riding around. My students are extremely funny, but when in front of a camera, it can boarder on stupidity. So I thought it better to keep the camera out of sight. In actuality I spent more of the time inside and warm because it was so miserable outside. A cold spring day that wants winter back.

Sunday, April 16, 2006


Today I taugh both grade one classes and the grade two class. It was the very first English class for the grade ones and the homeroom teachers had really hyped it up. The students were intinally very shy; but about ten minutes into class that completely melted away. This gave way to a normal class environment, with very funny and excitable students.

What does one teach grade ones in their first class? A "Jikoshoukai", or "self-introduction." Starting with "Hello. My name is? Nice to meet you." Then they learned the all important Junken, or "Rock, paper, sissors" in English. This is the basis for many games. Now I am expectionally tired.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Sunday Post from Shikaoi

A busy Saturday, but planned thus because now Sunday is wide open. Recently, on the weekends, I have been eating Bacon and Eggs, instead of my normal fare of Toast. It is a small attempt to ration my scarce Canadian Extra Smooth Peanut Butter. I thing it is a nice change to have a somewhat big breakfast. (Today it was only one and a half strips of bacon and one small egg. It was very good.)

For a Sunday I have already: had breakfast, done the dishes, did a load of laundry; now it is 9:00 AM and I am sitting down to write today's update. I'm listening to the CBC radio one six o'clock news (Mountain time). It sounds like everything is falling apart. No good news today. Lately I have been getting up at 7:30 AM on Sundays to hear CBC's program about books. Today's book was from some Rock n' Roll writer that believed he knew everything about pop music and today's iPod generation. To me he sounded like a fraud and the panel thought his book was boring for various reasons. In his book, the writer convinced himself that the iPod generation don't listen to any music before 1990. He would be surprised to see what's on my iPod. To me, and looking at my family, he sounds very out of touch. Amongst various Radiohead tunes, old songs on my top fifty play are: Bob Dylan's The Times They Are A Changing and 4th Time Around; The Rolling Stones's You Can't Always Get Want You Want and Satisfaction; and Van Morrison's Gloria. Just to illustrate I am well rounded, the oldest song is Beethoven's Cello Sonata No.3 In A Major, very beautiful track. The latest track added was actually an NPR interview about processed foods. But the last piece of music added was Sufjan Stevens' excellent track Chicago, though the album is far far less impressive IMO.

Now CBC's Madly Off In All Directions has come on and it is time to switch to a different internet radio station because that program is most definitely not funny. It should have been cancelled a long time ago. It is a program that makes me very depressed about the state of Canadian comedy; thank goodness for Trailer Park Boys (the early seasons are great).

I have been very surprised recently that many people have commented on how much my Japanese has improved lately, including yesterday. Improving is not something that I can readily notice. The pace of learning is glacial and it feels like I am not learning anything. One thing I find strange is that I study more Kanji than anything else, so it's intriguing that my listening and speaking has improved. Still, it's nice to know on some level I am improving. Korean is becoming increasingly popular to learn, though no where near as popular as English. This is because Korean movies and TV shows have become popular here, thus Korean actors too. I guess everyone wants with speak with them. Yet there is a strong feeling that English is the international language, but I am less convinced. Still, becoming more and more fluent has encouraged me to look at learning another language someday. Sadly, learning a language at this age is many times more difficult.

I guess I will go for a run now.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

In the News: Orange Day, April 14th

I was reading the japanese news online, which I do daily, and I discovered a new holiday that will be celebrated tomorrow. It's a good idea to let everyone know just how crazy busy I will be tomorrow as a result of the holiday. But first some history; Valentine's Day is celebrated almost as normal here on February 14th, except that anything remotely religious has been sucked out of it. Instead the day is dedicated for women to get men gifts. Next month on March 14th brings White Day - perhaps slightly more consumerist in nature - was created more recently by department stores and chocolate companies. This day is for men to reciprocate the gifts they received.

Orange day was created ten years ago and its purposes are two fold; So lovers have an opportunity "to confirm their affections in April", and also Partner Day, to recognize gender equally. Both are expressed by exchanging gifts, preferably something orange, or better yet, oranges. The impetus for the day is thinly veiled; the article goes on to state, "Orange Day was hit upon by a group of citrus fruit growers [in Japan]... For this year's Orange Day celebrations, Hankyu Department Stores Inc. of Osaka city is selling cakes using oranges, and Sunkist Growers Inc., a U.S. group of citrus fruit shippers, will distribute oranges and a recipe book on April 14 in Tokyo."

The Japanese news site I use allows commenting and the Orange Day story was one of the hottest discussions of the day. All commenting is done by foreigners and the backlash was quite strong. Calls for an "Orange Day Boycott to start right here on this thread!" rose to a near revolutionary pitch. The comment below was cut and pasted from the discussion and satirically expresses the feelings toward this holiday. The quote features a factious discussion between a Japanese and a foreignor about Orange Day.

Japanese overseas: Hey, happy Orange Day!
Person native to that country: What?
Japanese: We have the tradition of celebrating Orange Day every April 14th. It's a wonderful holiday.
Native: I see, what's the history behind it?
Japanese: Hmmm... I'm not sure, we were just told to celebrate it. Young people give each other something orange, and married couples feel refreshed with each other.
Native: What the hell does that have to do with 'orange'? or love, for that matter?
Japanese:... Ummm... well, we give each other precious $40 oranges that they gift rap for us at department stores.
Native: $40s in oranges?!?
Japanese: Ummm, no, a $40 orange...

Also experienced while writing this piece; quite a large jolt from an earthquake.

Early back to the office

I have arrived early back to the office today from a meeting out at Urimaku Jr. High School. I met my two new teachers there. Actually, there are a lot of new faces at that school. The Board of Education received funding to continue their extensive English progam in the town. Two English teachers at a school of only 47 students is amazing. The younger teacher has been assigned teaching grade ten and the older teacher is teaching grades eleven and twelve. Both came from larger schools in Obihiro and commented with surprise that all students seemed to be very capiable English speakers. I think this is because in classes of fifteen or sixteen, even if a student wanted nothing at all to do with English, there is no place to hid and thus they learn, abet, reluctantly. They were surprised that I thought the students at Urimaku Chu Gakko seemed shy. Again, I think this is a fact of the small small class sizes. By this age a "coolness factor" starts to taint the students and it can be like pulling teeth somedays. (And they never want to silly English dances anymore either.) Still, the fresh grade sevens at this point still love English because elementary Enlgish is geared toward games, having fun, yelling, and in my class, chaos. I didn't actually get into the class room today because the Jr. High School is still in it's first week of school mode and I am sure has lots of house keeping type stuff to do. Hence back at the office early. A Shikaoi-soba lunch is in order!

Tomorrow; Urimaku Sho Gakko with rain.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

New Students, New Teachers

Things went very smoothly today at Tsumei Elementary School. There were a couple of new students to the school but they were all from Shikaoi so I knew them from my other schools. I was extremely surprised this morning when two of my favorite students, brothers Kazuki and Yuzuki - very kind, walked into the teachers room. Last I had seen them was at Urimaku Elementary School. There are also three new grade ones, all of which I have met at various kindergartens except one. Three new teachers as well, two of which I have worked with at other schools, leaving only one truly new to me. I will be working with a new English teacher at that school fresh from graduating in March. She looked a bit shaky today but had a lot working against here; shy of her English, shy of me, shy of the new students, shy of her very first class. At times I glance over and though shy may burst out in tears and run out. She had said early she liked children and I can't imagine any calamities. By next month she'll be teaching classes like she always has and everything will be working like a well oiled machine.

The next couple of days look very wet. They are getting over a 100 mL down south. I can deal with that as long as the snow is done for. Tomorrow back at Shikaoi Elementary School. A slow day just getting stuff at order and I can imagine a full schedule next week.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Welcoming Ceremony

Well today's ceremony welcoming for the new grade ones was short and sweet. I saw lots of happy parents and was relived to finally find out what teacher had what grade (no one tells me anything, so I had to be patient and find out myself). This ceremony was indeed more upbeat; but each group still sang the other a song. The grade ones, when put on the spot, are very shy, but many all ready know me. I was standing talking to another teacher and one of the new grade ones ran over and hug me in front of their mother. The parent did a poor job at hiding how shocked she was. Slightly awkward moment; so I just introduced myself. Then I had to pry her daughter off my leg. I should of brought my camera because their were many interesting moments but it skipped my mind this morning. I was surpirised to learn that the two grade one classes each had two teachers. Making a ratio of about ten to one in the classroom. That's amazing. The grade fives have exactly forty students, the absolute limit in Japan. It all makes me so confused about what to think about the Japanese school system.

Now, the next challange for me is lunch. I have no food at my house nor do I really feel like spending money. It is a pressing issue because lunch is in three minutes and I am hungry.


Had a busy couple of days before the weekend but the weekend itself was very slow. I had wanted to get lots done and worked hard to get it all done on Saturday. I guess I could have done more laundry this weekend but I have everything I need for now. The weather was great but we still have a lot of snow (as the picture below will attest). I went for a long walk on Sunday instead of a run to get some fresh air. I just kind of bounced around town because the nice path by the river still has over a foot of snow to melt. It's going to be a long time until the Sun coaxes out the cherry blossoms around here.

This week the school year starts again - tomorrow actually. I have met all the new grade ones because I have previously visited their kindergarten. So at least they will see some faces they recognize. I was speculating with another teacher that all the kids would have forgotten me but I was assured that was not the case. At Shikaoi Sho Gakko there is only one class of each grade this year. I am a little apprehensive about that because it means the classes will be huge; some topping forty students. Tomorrow morning at 9:15 PM is the welcoming ceremony. I can only hope it is more upbeat than the graduation ceremony last month.

I have been writing lots lately hence the sporadic updates. Sorry.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Send News

I have been closely watching with humour the comical drama that is Ralph Klein's retirement. He is really causing a tempest in a teapot, on a national scale even. I read the Alberta news and am struck be the fact Progressive Conservative M.L.A.'s (that have the majority) are still willing to rush the proposed health care reforms. At the moment there is a lot of upheaval; it's a big distraction for the politicians involved and the people watching. But still they press ahead. The most discouraging thing about the reforms however, at least to me, is that I have no idea what is being planned. I am clueless as to what is being proposed. And I watch these things closely! Oh, there is one thing I know because he keeps repeating it. "It may violate the Canadian Health Act." Like that's encouraging. As I mentioned in a previous post I believe things are moving very fast; and I seemed to have been proven right again. It's not that I want to stop or even reverse them, just slow the issue. But there seems to be an amazing amount of force - pushing through even chaos incarnate - to get them passed.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


It is very nice to see the Sun nice and high when I leave for work these days. The weather is behaving very Spring-like, with the exception of last week's snow deluge. I have been walking to work everyday because it is so nice. When I have school my schedule is much tighter and there is no chance to slow down and walk to work. One thing walking has upset is getting home for lunch everyday; one has to walk quick. Shikaoi is interesting because the vast majority of town workers are able to go home for lunch because the town is small.

I have been writing a lot lately and this blog is getting slightly neglected. I write much like I study Japanese; very haphazardly and anarchically. I always have several writing projects on my desktop at any one time. Thus I have something to write for any mood I am in. With no deadlines or rules, I write what I want at my pace. The manuscripts, internally, are also a bit chaotic. I think this particular characteristic may have to change if I tackle anything larger because it becomes inefficient, confusing, and tedious to scroll through large works and organize the work’s top-down structure. But for the time being I like the challenge.

I have learned most of my Japanese completely on my own, this continues today. Recently I have been focusing on Kanji because that is the main thing that holds my attention. I know having no plan is probably inefficient and slow, but at least I like studying, which is a huge help in getting the job done. Reading is also important. I get more than enough opportunities to practice Japanese conversation living in here.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Morning Confusion

I hope today's update gives insight into Japanese culture. I worry that the significance of the event will be missed by my foreign readers exactly because it's so foreign. Still, it was funny when it happened.

As mentioned in a previous post, we have a new Board of Education superintendent. We are still working on the kinks. On Monday morning, things were very hectic because of the transition. Normally, every morning we do an "aisatsu," a formal greeting. Normally, the assistant to the superintendent first says "Ohaiyo gozaimasu" and then we repeat it followed by the superintendent. Yesterday it was funny because, instead of the normal routine, in the rush out of his office on Tuesday, he started by saying "Ohaiyo gozaimasu". So the assistant had to politely explain that we were suppose to greet him first. This cracked everyone up. Today, when the chime went off at 8:45 AM and everyone stood up to greet him, we couldn't find him. Finally he ran to his office, put on his blazer, and we could continue. I swear will get this thing right yet!

Some distressing news; last night I went for a short walk after dinner because the wind had died down and I wanted some fresh air. I found on my driveway an injured bird. It looked very exotic. Sudden thoughts of bird flu went through my head. It made no attempt to move away when I got close, so I knew something was wrong. I decided to not interfere with nature, as I had been taught, but thought about it the rest of the night. This morning when I walked to work, the bird was gone. I'm glad I didn't interfere and nature took care of itself. It looks like the bird was able to leave on its own.


I will eventually switch the image of me to the right. I consider it the winter season image. But there is still a staggering amount of snow on the ground from last week so you will have to wait a little longer for the big reveal, which I actually expect - now that I think about it - to be both underwhelming and anti-climatic. In Canada, we only have two seasons - winter and construction season - but in Japan we closely follow four distinct seasons.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

My Boombastic Definitions

At the behest of my readers, in today's update I will be tackling definitions of some of the most common Japanese words I use in this blog. I often intermix Japanese words into my blog and daily English without knowing. Mostly to whom I speak with in English are either native Japanese-speakers or foreign English teachers with an advance grasp of Japanese. Thus, if some Japanese is used, it goes unnoticed because it is always mutually understood.

Two examples of this are prices and Gaijin, both of which I have noticed for a long time. When I am talking with Kevin in English, for whatever reason, when it comes to prices, we say them in Japan. "Ni-hakyu-en, San-byukyu-en." This is probably because we always see the prices in Yen and it just follows that we would remember it in Japanese. "Gaijin" is also interesting. It means loosely "foreigner". The literal translation means "an outsider" and has a slight pejorative meaning associated with it. The polite form is "Gaikokujin", which means "a person from outside the country." You can see how those two words have slightly different meanings. Mostly Japanese society has been moving toward calling all foreigners the more polite "Gaikokujin", however, when I am in conversation with other English teachers, we refer to ourselves with the less polite "Gaijin." As in; "Were you the only Gaijin there?" or "Did lots of Gaijin show up?" Part of this is due to the fact that in Japanese you are not suppose to refer to yourself with the honorific. For example, saying "Hello, I am Smith-san" is a big No-No. Only other people can bestow the honorific. That being said, I don't know why we say "Gaijin" instead of "foreigner". Somehow, for unknown linguistic reasons, "Gaijin" is a better word to describe our place in Japanese society as opposed to "foreigner" and not necessarily because we are outsiders. I find it an interesting phenomenon.

In regards to how I talk about my schools; I have a hard time thinking about them as Shikaoi Elementary School, Shikaoi Kindergarten or Urimaku Junior High School. Every reference to them for months on end is strictly in Japanese: Shikaoi Sho Gakko, Shikaoi Yochen, Urimaku Chu Gakko. Sometimes Shikaoi Sho is shorten to Shikasho. It has become completely natural to think of these places as wholely defined by their Japanese words. It has become so natural that a place called Shikaoi Elementary School barely exists.

Tori-Sei: This is known in Stony Plain as the chicken restaurant. It is run by our good family friends the Suzuki's and, predictably, specializes in chicken. I try to go there as often as I can. It's really great food and one of the only restaurants in Shikaoi with a remotely North American taste. The yaki-tori chicken (teriyaki) is awesome; grilled over charcoal. All North American yaki-tori chicken pales in comparison. Also - in my book anyway - they should be known for their fresh onigiri; or rice balls. With the fillings dedicatedly cooked over the charcoal BBQ.

Kyoiku-iinkai: This is the Board of Education where I work. It took me a long time for that word to roll off the tongue. Not a lot of people know that unlike many English teachers, I am directly contracted with the Town of Shikaoi and thus my office is in the Board of Education. So everyday after class, I return to the Board of Education. This is traditionally the time of year that everyone rotates, and without going into too much detail, the past couple of weeks, and on through this week, have been very busy.

Hanami: During this time of year is Sakura, or Cherry blossom, Season. It is snowing again today so I think Hokkaido's "Hanami", or flower watching, will be pushed back to next year. Hanami is in full swing in Southern Japan; I know this because the news covers the festivities every night. In Alberta it is hard to imagine what the extreme draw could be. But actually walking through a park with blooming cherry trees as far as the eye can see is a very moving experience and one quickly comes to understand why Hanami has such a long and great history in Japan.

Fear Not Net Ditizens

I spend a restful weekend doing other writing instead of updating the blog. Sorry. When the mood strikes you, you have to write. So generally, with the weekend now winding down, it was good. Lots of snow melted. Went for two runs. I also went into Obihiro and got so many grocceries my little fridge can barely contain them. I made pasta and will make stew tonite. I will make enough to have left overs this week. I didn't need anything on Friday because I ate out. I don't have school next week, and thus need a lunch; I bought all the fixings for sandwiches. I am exceedingly excited. I promised Yuki I would help translate some material on Monday, but as for what the rest of the week holds, with Kevin gone, I don't know.